Spam emails may seem like old news to many, but it's a problem that has stood the test of time. According to a recent report, 14.5 billion spam messages are sent globally every day. Fortunately, many modern email platforms are generally good at screening generic spam. The real challenge is dealing with more subtle yet effective unsolicited messages that appear in company inboxes.
While some spam emails like marketing emails are generally harmless, they could be annoying. Furthermore, because of their ubiquitous nature, cybercriminals are keen on using such emails to deliver malware. A significant portion of spam messages aims to damage or hijack user systems. Here are the seven most common types of email spam:
- Ads – These are unsolicited emails offering products and services such as weight loss programs or pills, real estate properties, retail promotions, etc. In rare cases, ads may be scams that trick you for your money.
- Chain letters – These letters often start with scare tactics like “If you don’t read and pass this message, a 10-year curse will follow you”. Usually, they tell exciting or thrilling stories to persuade you to share the message along
- Email spoofing – Such emails are related to phishing emails. They happen when scammers trick users by impersonating someone they know in the company. A common example of this is a business email compromise (BEC) scheme, whereby an attacker compromises a business executive’s email account or any publicly listed email. The fraudster then dupes the target into providing account details or transferring money to an untraceable account.
- Hoaxes – Hoax emails contain offers and miracle promises. In general, this tactic is used by spammers to gain your interest and ultimately direct you to a malicious website.
- Warnings and notifications – These fraudulent messages may warn you of a potential malware attack and instruct you how to get rid of it. But in reality, they are designed with links that will infect your computer with ransomware and other harmful programs.
- Porn spam – Sadly, this type of spam is very common nowadays. Being a lucrative market, pornographic images and videos are used to entice users and trick them into downloading malicious attachments.
Without a proper plan, these spam messages can impede your company's productivity and put your systems in jeopardy. The following tips can help defend your business against spam:
Educate and train your employees
Since your employees are your first line of defense, it’s important for them to continuously receive proper education and training to recognize spam and other security threats. Training them to “think before you click” is a great way to reduce the likelihood of spam-based attacks. If they know what they’re looking out for, they’ll know what to avoid and, more importantly, what to do.
Strengthen email filters
An efficient way to combat spam is to beef up your email filters. It could be as simple as choosing the filtering level of your inbox; for example, from “low” to “safe lists only”. The latter is the highest setting and will only allow mail from your safe senders list to go straight to your inbox. It’s wise to find a happy medium where your filters are set high enough to eliminate some of the worst and most pervasive spam but still allow client or customer emails to get through.
Use multifactor authentication (MFA)
Enable MFA to add another layer of protection over passwords. This will ensure the user’s identity by providing at least two pieces of information to verify their identity. Each piece of information must come from the following categories: something they know like a password, something they have such as SMS verification code, or something they are like a fingerprint scan. Broadly speaking, using MFA makes it more difficult for a hacker to get a hold of an account. If for instance, your employee gets hacked and the cybercriminal obtains user credentials, the chances of breaking in will be slim because the hacker won’t have the second piece of information needed for access.
Conduct regular security health checks
Make sure to have regular email security checks. Since email and web-based threats continue to evolve, it’s important to stay abreast with what’s happening out there and know what you can improve within your email infrastructure. You might discover that you’ve been using outdated technology or that your network has unpatched vulnerabilities that could lead to an influx of spam messages getting into your inbox undetected.
Secure your browsers
The most common form of phishing involves the impersonation of a trusted website. If your employees attempt to log in to a website without first checking the URL, this could lead to information theft. To defend against this, you should run an extension called HTTPS Everywhere, which verifies the correct URL and security features for every webpage. Better yet, partner with a trusted managed security services provider that could provide complete protection against all kinds of email threats.
Email security mechanisms have evolved in response to the new wave of threats. Standard security tools like firewalls and antivirus programs remain necessary but they are no longer enough to protect private and sensitive data. Threats like spam could impact your productivity, security, and bottom line. An experienced managed services provider can help you plan and secure your network. Call us today and learn more about what you can do to protect your business and we’ll work on building a plan for you.